Poland

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Home Page > Travelogues > Poland

Quick Access for this Page -- [ Introduction ] [ Travelogues By Region ] [ Links ]

Click on the colored areas of the map to access a travelogue.  The colors indicate different regions of Poland -- scroll down for explanation and introduction for each location. (Original map comes from the CIA World Factbook)

IntroductionPoland is a country that has a rocky, divided history in recent times Poland-- heavily influenced (and conquered) by Germany and Russia.  With the Cold War over, Poland is now seeking to assert itself and its own identity separate from the powers it is sandwiched between.  The country has history on its side.  It was once a great kingdom of its own, who produced great warriors and great thinkers like Copernicus.  It also has a wealth of natural resources, great port locations in the Eastern Sea, and a rapidly progressing economy.  As Poland prepares to join the EU in 2004, it clearly plans to join at a position of strength.

I've been to Poland about a half-dozen times, mostly on short business trips, but a few times for leisure.  The cities of Krakow and Warsaw are the clear first places to visit for anyone going to Poland, in particular Krakow which is extremely well preserved, and is not only famed as the place where John Paul II was cardinal, but also as the site of Poland's largest Jewish populations before the Nazi invasion.  Visitors with strong stomachs are encouraged to visit the famous Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, not far from Krakow, for a stark history lesson (it attracts large numbers of Israelites and European Jews each year).

One thing is for sure, the country absolutely adores the Pope.  Nearly every town and city has a Jan Paulus Street or Square or Building.  John Paul statues, paintings, and pictures are common.  But this is more than just hero worship -- Poland is a deeply Catholic country with the vast majority of its inhabitants actively religious, attending daily Mass in Poland's many churches.

The Polish border region has also become very popular because of Poland's inexpensive and high-quality earthenware.  "Polish Pottery" trips are very popular among western Europeans, and I too have shopped there, especially around Bolaslawiec (I don't have a travelogue for there, but might someday when I return).

My "list" for Poland is very extensive.  I've made several acquaintances in the country, all of whom have been eager to show the nation's hidden treasures.  Cities like Szczecin (pronounced Shtet-sin) in far northwest, Wroclaw (Vroat-slaff, also known as Breslau) in the southwest, and Lublin in the southeast have been strongly recommended to me.  I also have an interest in visiting the great port city of Gdansk for another history lesson -- to walk the ground where Lech Walesa led the nation's Solidarnosci movement in the mid-1980s.

Travelogues.  The coloring of the locations on the map above indicate different locations in Poland, as shown below.  

PURPLE:  KRAKOW.  The city of Krakow was once the capital of the Polish kingdom, and stands as the most beautiful city in the country.  The old town runs very long from the Rynek Glowny grand market square to the wonderful The Wawel Castle in KrakowWawel Castle (pictured) overlooking the Wisla (Vistula) River, and the entire walk is lined with massive and beautiful churches and artwork.  Nearby is my personal favorite tourist attraction, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, where the miners converted tunnels into chapels and engraved artwork and sculptures everywhere.  Also nearby are several castles, such as the lovely Pieskowa Skala. GREEN:  The Holocaust.  Krakow was also the site of the setting for the famous Holocaust movie "Schindler's List", and "Schindler's List Tours" are commonly offered.  Two related "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate to Auschwitzlocations are offered in travelogues here.  First is the Kazimierz district of downtown Krakow, formerly the heart of the Jewish ghetto and now home to a Holocaust museum.  This travelogue also covers some of the Holocaust memorials in the surrounding area.  A short drive away is Auschwitz, site of the most infamous of Nazi extermination camps (pictured), now a museum.
BLUE:  WARSAW (4 Chapters).  The Polish capital of Warsaw is being heavily rebuilt, renovated, and modernized to match its former glory.  I visited Warsaw in depth and offer three Barbican in Warsaw's Old Citysubchapters, which still don't fully cover the city!  The Stare Miasto subchapter covers the beautiful old and new cities, from the Gateway of the Barbican (pictured) to the Royal Castle.  The Royal Way covers the parks, government buildings, and museums that stretch along the ridgelines over the River.  Then, because Warsaw was so big, I put together the Rest of the City, including the famous (or infamous) Palace of Culture. RED:  Other Locations.  This miscellaneous category includes two locations that I visited and enjoyed for different reasons.  The wonderful central Polish city of Torun (pictured above) is famous as Copernicus' birthplace.  Perched on the Vistula River with beautiful red-brick walls and great architecture inside, Torun is a treasure chest.  I also spent a beautiful weekend in the small western town of Sulecin (pictured below), which is in a heavily forested area near some of Poland's military training areas.  Sulecin and its environs are fantastic for outdoorsmen -- lots of lakes, mountain bike paths, and fresh air!  Then together we returned to the area for a friend's wedding is nearby Lubniewice, another great experience for us.

Stories and Features:

None yet -- check again at a future time.

LinksThe below links connect you to external sites in a new window.  All links are official sites sanctioned by the national, state, or local governments unless otherwise indicated.  These links will open to the Polish-language home page, which will offer an icon or link to an English-language section (normally limited content).  If an English language link is not available, click on the "Turystyka" section.  This is for the tourism page, which should have English content available.  Pages where English content was not readily available is marked "in Polish".  Links updated 9 January 2006.

Country Links:

bulletPoland National Tourist Office
bullet US Embassy to Poland
bullet US Consular Sheet for Poland
bullet Polish Embassy to US 

 

City and Town Links:

bullet

Auschwitz Official Museum Site

bullet

Lubniewice Home Page (in Polish)

bullet

Krakow Home Page

bullet

Skala Home Page (in Polish)

bullet Ogrodzieniec Castle Page (near Skala) 
bullet Sulecin Home Page 
bullet Torun Home Page 
bullet Warsaw Home Page 
bullet

Wieliczka Salt Mine Page

bullet

Wieliczka Home Page (in Polish)

 

   
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